- Higher turnout and increased youth participation momentum have to be reinforced
- Attention needed to guarantee an equal vote and representation for all citizens
- Conference on the Future of Europe: citizens to have a say on European democracy
The text endorsed by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs sets out how to enhance democracy and reinforce European citizenship, in anticipation of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
On Wednesday, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs approved (with 22 votes to 5 and 1 abstention) a draft resolution that takes stock of the May 2019 European Elections and the state of play of the reforms initiated by Parliament and adopted in 2018.
MEPs welcome the higher voter turnout (also highlighting the role of Parliament’s “This Time I’m Voting” campaign), which demonstrates that the negative trend in Europe can be reversed. Citizen consultations and the Conference on the Future of Europe can be employed to reinforce the substantial increase of youth participation, as well as the harmonisation of minimum voting age across EU countries.
Equal political representation in free and fair elections
Although the last elections improved gender balance in Parliament, substantial room for improvement and divergence between EU countries remain, which could be addressed by introducing “zipped” lists. Further, MEPs stress that the representation of minority groups needs to be improved. An estimated 800.000 citizens with disabilities were not able to vote, so MEPs call for accessibility improvements at polling stations.
An equal right to vote has to be guaranteed for all European citizens in the context of a European political space, they note, including those who do not live in their country of origin, who are homeless, or who are in prison (in accordance with national laws). Therefore, they call for the harmonisation of rules to improve clarity for voters and candidates, increase visibility for European political parties and movements, and ensure equality of vote across the EU.
MEPs warn against disinformation and interference by foreign and internal actors, which have to be tackled through education and awareness-raising, in combination with institutional efforts such as East StratCom and Parliament’s new special committee on foreign interference. The role of social media platforms is also mentioned, on which MEPs propose scrutiny for their algorithms and the reform of online campaigning rules.
Spitzenkandidaten, transnational lists, electoral law and EU reform
MEPs declare that the “lead candidate” process failed to produce a Commission President in 2019 largely because European citizens do not understand it. This has to be addressed, potentially through better coordination between political parties, European institutions and broadcasters. They point out though that Parliament remains the institution that elects the EC President on the basis of European election results, and that “nothing prevents European parties and movements [...] to put forward a joint program and a single coalition Spitzenkandidat” under current rules. They also reference the use of transnational lists, which will elevate European elections above national interests.
The text reiterates the call for reforms that would establish the individual and collective responsibility of the Commission towards Parliament and the Council, and the transformation of the Council into a second legislative chamber. It also welcomes the upcoming Conference on the Future of Europe and awaits its launch so that it can deal with issues related to democratic processes and institutional matters.
The rapporteur Pascal Durand (Renew Europe, FR) commented that “our report feeds the institutional debates with important proposals, which certainly could help solve the challenges ahead, and to extract ourselves and the member states from national protectionism. As shown in this report, solidarity and union pave the way for resilience and progress”.
Electoral rules in the EU remain only partly harmonised. Article 223 TFEU provides the legal basis for reforming the electoral procedure, under which Parliament drafts a proposal and submits it to the Council, which decides by unanimity, after obtaining Parliament's consent by absolute majority. Thereafter, the member states need to ratify the reform in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. The 2018 electoral law reform has not yet been ratified by all member states.
Parliament is expected to vote on this resolution during the 23-26 November plenary session.